TRENDS 2017

We offer our customers over 3,000 micro-trends every year in the Trendexplorer. Based on these rather small signs, our innovation Analysts are capable of identifying larger movements – the 2017 trends. This shows that today’s companies really need to consider both short-term and long-term developments.

Covering the entire innovation horizon, Act – Think – Watch represents a recommendation for action with regard to the trends. We firmly believe that great things in life start out small and give you the first incentives to act – Start to innovate!

#1 Conversational Commerce

Voice-first interfaces are revolutionizing customer interaction.

Digital conversations are the new form of customer interaction. Messengers, as central platforms, are becoming an ecosystem for retailers, brands and service providers. Whether by text, video or automated as a chat bot, natural language signalizes proximity and comfort. The command line is becoming the most important shopping channel. An emoji is all that’s needed to order a pizza. Smart-home systems like Amazon Echo and Google Home have completely done away with graphic user interfaces. With over 3,000 “Alexa Skills”, people can order food or taxis. “Voice First” is becoming the key component of service architecture for all providers.

Start to innovate: It’s time to get started. Define a use-case for your company. Tools like Chatfuel.com make it possible to create chat bots in ten minutes without any code. Video tutorials will instruct you how it works. Test the prototype with colleagues. Collect the feedback. With the help of these experiences, you can now analyse which processes in your company can be enhanced by chat bots.

#2 Deliver Readiness

Immediate deliverability is becoming a guiding principle in product development.

Instant and Now are the key words of delivery services and logistics companies. Amazon and Deliveroo show how it’s done. Ordered goods can now reach the customers in just 30 minutes. The need for instant availability with no waiting times turns customers into process managers. After all, they are the ones who decide when, where and how goods are delivered. This has led to innovative concepts – from tiny storage spaces in inner cities that enable fast collections, to autonomous robots that distribute deliveries in neighbourhoods from a Mercedes van. The conclusion here is: goods and services have to be “deliver ready” in future and be available to customers anytime and anywhere. Products and services are developed based on the principle of deliverability.

Start to innovate: Consider the following: In future, will your customers expect your company’s products or services to be delivered to them “instantly”? Can you develop a business model from this possibility? Focus on potential cooperation partners. They could be local retailers, logistics companies or start-ups. Use the opportunity to get in touch, swap ideas and co-create. Together, you could quickly produce prototypes and test them out.

#3 Mixed Reality

Holographic images herald an age without screens.

Limiting the user experience to screens is a thing of the past. Mixed reality enables the realistic presentation of interactive 3D projections in the direct surroundings. Headsets like the Microsoft HoloLens blend digital and physical display levels. People use eye-tracking, gestures and voice to navigate their way through mixed reality. Whether for training, assembly or product development purposes, companies in all industries recognize the potential in this technology. Holographic projectors like the Holovect have succeeded in fully combining reality and virtuality. Where the possibility of touching holograms was once just in the realm of science fiction, it is now slowly entering our present lives.

Start to innovate: Keep a look-out for events, meet-ups or VC pitches in your region where providers or developers present the latest hardware and software. Use every opportunity to test the technology live. Share your impressions with participants and colleagues. Consider how your company can benefit from mixed reality. Develop some small test scenarios. By the way, the HoloLens is available in stores from the end of 2016.

#4 Blockchain Business

What the internet has done for communication, the blockchain will do for transactions.

The blockchain has the disruptive potential to turn decade-long domination by industry mechanisms and business models on its head. After all, the blockchain is more than just a secure, digital infrastructure for making transactions. The blockchain serves as a technically implemented form of trust between people so that there is no longer any need for trustworthy third parties. It can be used wherever security, fairness, distribution, accounting, verification and tracking are required. To begin with, the revolution is taking place in the background, in the back-end. End customers will first come into contact with the blockchain via smart contracts or dapps.

Start to innovate: Check out websites like Ethereum.org and Bitcoinmagazine.com. It’s important to keep an eye on the latest developments and their implications. Assess your observations for your company. Also start reading studies and papers on the subject. Give your developers sufficient time to come to terms with the blockchain. Based on the findings, draw up a strategic roadmap for your company.

#5 Retail Robots

A new wave of automation is turning robots into cooperation partners.

My colleague the robot – this sentence could soon become a reality in retail. Around the world, the retail business is testing the use of robots in its stores. In-store concepts are planning to use inventory robots. “Tally” and “Tory” scan the shelves autonomously to search for missing or incorrectly stocked goods. Employees will therefore be relieved from having to perform routine tasks and get more time for things like customer service. Self-driving shopping carts like “WiiGo” and “Dash” follow customers independently through the shops. These concepts are backed up by the vision of automated retail. Supermarkets and restaurants with absolutely no employees have already opened up in Sweden and the USA. Technically feasible but socially controversial – this development will add to the debate about the benefits of automation.

Start to innovate: What are the opportunities and risks regarding the automation of work? Authors like Martin Ford, Erik Brynjolfsson and Ulrich Eberl discuss these issues in their works. Check them out. Get in touch with some of the innovators. Visit robotics companies like MetraLabs, Kuka and Softbank at trade shows and exhibitions. Personal experiences will help you to judge the potential of this technology more objectively.

#6 4D Printing

Materials are becoming machines.

3D is turning into 4D. This is made possible by programmable materials that can independently transform or further develop after being manufactured. The ability to change represents the fourth dimension. Materials are capable of assuming tasks. When built into furniture, they ensure autonomous assembly. They are no longer just materials but are becoming machines. Programmable materials can not only be printed or industrially produced, but also grown. Bacteria in the fabric of sportswear react, for example, to humidity and then ensure ideal training conditions. Adaptive, multimodal, self-healing and biodegradable – 4D printing heralds the future of materials and it won’t have much in common with today’s engineering.

Start to innovate: Challenge your existing products and start an internal hackathon. Lock yourself away with your team for 24 hours. How will 4D printing change your product development, your packaging designs or your marketing samples? Build some prototypes. Make sure you have enough paper, pens, marker pens and coffee. Pitch your prototypes at the end as though you were speaking to venture capitalists.

#7 Purification

A new hygiene awareness demands purity all the way through to sterility.

Will kitchens, bathrooms and toilets soon be cleaning themselves? Due to various food scandals and health scares like E. coli, the need for purification has risen sharply. Technologies like UV light, ionizers and ultrasound promise absolute cleanliness right through to sterility. This is done without using manual cleaning techniques and conventional detergents. Even washing machines are becoming a kind of dress manager that thoroughly wash clothes in just a few minutes using nanofilters rather than water and washing powder. Self-cleaning materials and fibers will put an end to manual cleaning. Whether in car-sharing or on public transport – preventive measures for protecting people from health risks will surround people in future like an aura.

Start to innovate: Ask the crowd by launching a campaign on the company’s innovation platform or using free social software. Team up with your colleagues to look for new ideas and innovative concepts. The software-based process ensures that creativity and structured clarity can be grouped together. The probability will increase that you will come up with an idea that really could be implemented.

#8 Space Colonization

The human race is heading towards becoming an interplanetary species.

Is the privatization of space leading to an era in which the human race maintains a system of rocket bases in space and colonizes other planets? SpaceX, Boeing and NASA are working feverishly on this vision. They all plan to send the first manned mission to Mars in 2026. Beforehand, they will have to solve the corresponding technical problems and financial challenges. Reusable launch vehicles and space capsules will have to be developed for the 450-day flight. Besides enough food, water and oxygen, the first settlers will need clothing and accommodation. Terraforming could make Mars habitable over the long term. The visionaries agree on one thing: If the human race fails to establish itself beyond the Earth, it will become extinct.

Start to innovate: Make sure that long-term future topics are present in your company. Start-up monitoring on Cruchbase.com or Angellist.com should become part of your routine. Google is already investing in satellites and geo-engineering start-ups. Take a look at reports or use globally available innovation databases. This will help you to keep an eye on disruptive changes, spot the dynamics behind them and take action at an early stage.

#9 Quantum Clouds

Superfast computing power through quantum computing-as-a-service.

The company D-Wave Systems is the first provider of commercial quantum computing. The quantum computer it developed performs at 512 Qbits. The company’s first customers include NASA and Google. According to its calculations, the quantum computer is around 100 million times faster than a conventional computer. The quantum computer can therefore considerably accelerate database searches, simulate complex systems and crack today’s encryption technologies. In future, it will be possible to book and acquire its computing power from the cloud. Quantum clouds could well become the platforms of the future and they will be provided by companies like Amazon or IBM and trigger the era of hypercomputation.

Start to innovate: Align your antennae. Create Google Alerts for topics dealing with quantum computers and quantum physics. Search through Twitter for hashtags like #QuantumComputing. Follow these tweets and their authors. Visit scientific websites like Phys.Org and Spectrum.ieee.org and stay up to date on these issues.


CONTACT

Do you have any questions about the 2017 trends? Feel free to contact Sebastian Metzner by e-mail or phone at +49 (0)30 509 148 59.